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History of Science

This guide lists some starting points for doing research in the history of science, including article databases, reference works like encyclopedias and dictionaries, and web resources for biographical information on scientists

Archives and Manuscripts

The Special Collections Research Center has created finding aids for modern archival and manuscript collections for collections related to the history of science.  Collections include records from University of Chicago departments and divisions, and organizations as well as professional papers of eminent scientists.

Finding Books

To locate books written in or about a subject from a specific period of history, try the following when searching the Library catalogs:

  1. When searching for books about the history of medicine during the course of a century, use a "Keyword" search in the catalog and combine the words "history" and "medicine" with the century you are interested in, as represented by its numerical value. For example "medicine history 18" will retrieve books with the subject of the history of medicine in the 18th century. You can also add keywords about the specific subject you are interested in like "history 17 childbirth."

  2. When searching for books published during a specific time, limit your subject keyword search for a date range applicable to your research.

  3. TIP: Since it is possible that the subject headings will sometimes not capture important date information AND since Library of Congress subject headings are sometimes broad in nature, it is often valuable to conduct your search based on keywords alone without limiting your search to specific dates.

    For example, in the record below, none of the subject headings contain information about the timeline this book covers.


    Race, science and medicine, 1700-1960 / edited by Waltraud Ernst and Bernard Harris.  

    Imprint: London ; New York : Routledge, 1999.
    Description: ix, 300 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.
    Series: Studies in the social history of medicine
    Topics: Colonization -- Health aspects -- History.
    Imperialism -- Health aspects -- History.
    Science -- Social aspects -- History.
    Social medicine -- History.
    Social Medicine -- history.

Rare Books in the History of Science

Many major research libraries have collections of rare books which support scholarship in the history of science.  The following are just a few selected collections.


  • HathiTrust Digital Library
    The HathiTrust Digital Library brings together the immense collections of partner institutions (major research institutions and libraries) in digital form. Works from 18th, 19th and 20th century science are fully searchable and full PDFs may be downloaded by UChicago users after logging in with CNetID.

  • Google Books
    Excellent resource for discovering contemporary accounts of scientific research and discovery. Public domain works are full viewable, and many titles available as snippets in Google may be available in print in the UChicago Library collections.

  • Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans, 1639-1800
    Project digitizes essentially every known monograph published in what is now the United States from 1639 through 1800. Includes books, pamphlets, broadsheets, etc., but not magazines or newspapers. Please take note of the "search hints" on the main search page.

  • Early American Imprints, Series II: Shaw-Shoemaker, 1801-1819
    Continuation of the preceding resource.

  • Eighteenth Century Collections Online
    Comprehensive digital edition of The Eighteenth Century, a microfilm collection of 150,000 English-language titles and editions published between 1701 and 1800. Includes books and broadsides, Bibles, tract books and sermons to printed ephemera by well-known and lesser-known eighteenth-century authors.

  • Gallica
    Books, images & recordings from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Subject Specialist

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Andrea Twiss-Brooks
Director, Humanities and Area Studies
Chemistry and
Geophysical Sciences

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